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Notes: Gold Gloves in the future?
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10/21/2003  8:36 PM ET 
Notes: Gold Gloves in the future?
Encarnacion sits for Game 3; Willis wins award
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Derrek Lee committed just five errors at first base this season and demonstrated great range. (Alan Diaz/AP)
MIAMI -- While Gold Gloves go to the best fielders, they are not necessarily won on the field.

Winners often get them by name recognition or combining solid defense with impressive offensive statistics.

For a few years, the Marlins felt their infield stacked up defensively with anybody in the league. Yet, they have never been recognized for top honors.

Now that the Marlins are in the World Series, and their players are receiving more acclaim, they hope to be better represented in Gold Glove voting in the future.

"I'm probably prejudice, but I've never been around an infield like these guys," Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. "These guys are like vacuum cleaners."

Around the horn, the Marlins' defensive numbers are impressive. First baseman Derrek Lee committed five errors in 1,381 chances (.996 fielding percentage). Second baseman Luis Castillo, a two-time All-Star, made 10 errors in 729 chances (.986). Shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who has tremendous range, had 16 errors in 679 total chances (.976) and third baseman Mike Lowell's percentage was .973 (nine errors in 336 chances).

Catcher Ivan Rodriguez won 10 Gold Gloves with the Rangers. He is the only player on the team who possesses a Gold Glove.

Lowell said it would be an injustice if Lee doesn't get one this year.

"He's a tremendous athlete," Lowell said of the 6-foot-5 first baseman. "I've never seen a first baseman as big as he is and that moves around as well as he does. If he doesn't win the Gold Glove this year, I think it's a little bit of a joke because I think hands-down he's the best first baseman in the league."

Much of the Marlins success is attributed to first base coach Perry Hill, a whiz at positioning middle infielders.

Hill has a system where markers are used to align Gonzalez and Castillo. Small divots are dug at the rim of the infield dirt to position the middle infielders.

At Pro Player Stadium, the grounds crew works with Hill. Small identifiers are painted about 12 feet around where the shortstop and second man are situated. Based on who is batting, from the dugout, Hill plays traffic cop. He will use signals to move Gonzalez and Castillo within those markers. If a left-handed batter is up, the middle infielders shift to one side. The same holds true for right-handed hitters.

Almost pitch-by-pitch, Gonzalez and Castillo will eye Hill for direction.

"Those marks are a security blanket for them," Hill said. "If they get out of step, I can move them. We go pitch-by-pitch."

On the road, Hill will survey the landscape of the field and dig up small divots in the appropriate spots.

Hill studies batters the way pitchers do, and he keeps records of their tendencies.

Hill understands the politics that often go into who wins Gold Gloves.

"I thought last year they deserved a lot more recognition than they received," Hill said. "This year, the sad thing about the Gold Glove is the tallies were done before the playoffs. Those votes were cast before anyone saw our guys play. I think all four of our guys should really be considered for the Gold Glove.

"Performing on the national stage helps."

Hill said the unbalanced schedule hurts players who have never won before. The fact teams like the Diamondbacks and Dodgers play the Marlins six or seven times a year doesn't provide as much exposure. Meanwhile, Florida plays each team in the National League East 19 times.

Encarnacion sits: As expected for Game 3 of the World Series, McKeon reverted to the lineup that got him through the NLCS against the Cubs.

    Juan Encarnacion   /   OF
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 160
Bats/Throws: R/R

More info:
Stats
Splits
Hit chart
Dodgers site

Lowell started at third. Jeff Conine was in left field and rookie Miguel Cabrera opened in right and hit cleanup.

Sitting down was Juan Encarnacion, who started 155 games in right field.

Encarnacion started in right field for the first two games of the World Series, with Conine being used as the designated hitter.

With no DH in the National League park, Encarnacion was caught in the numbers game.

"I only have nine spots in the lineup," McKeon said. "That [lineup] was doing pretty good, and I'm going to stay with it. Juan is going to have to wait to pinch-hit, or play defense. You never know, someone might get hurt."

Encarnacion isn't pleased with sitting.

"I'd like to be out there," said Encarnacion, who is batting .212 with two home runs and two RBIs in the playoffs. "I'm not happy with it. I have to deal with it at this point. It's not my choice. He should use his players who helped him get to this point."

McKeon is committed to Cabrera, who has three homers and come up big in crucial situations.

"Miguel is a big-game player," McKeon said. "He's been consistent for us. Something happens when he's in there. Something good happens. He gives a good professional at-bat every time up."

TSN honors D-Train: Left-hander Dontrelle Willis was selected as the National League's top rookie pitcher by the Sporting News.

Called up from Double-A in early May, Willis finished 14-6 with a 3.30 ERA in 27 starts.

The 21-year-old from Alameda, Calif., is credited with helping revitalize a season that was in a downward spiral. The Marlins dipped to 10-games under .500 on May 22, but rebounded to win the Wild Card with a 91-71 record.

    Dontrelle Willis   /   P
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 200
Bats/Throws: L/L

More info:
Player page
Stats
Splits
Marlins site

Willis was 9-1 (2.08) at the halfway mark and he was selected to the All-Star team.

A high leg-kicking, high-energy performer, Willis' enthusiasm inspired his teammates.

After the All-Star break, he had his ups and downs, going 5-5 (4.60). He ended up pitching 160 2/3 innings with 142 strikeouts and 58 walks.

In addition, Willis was 4-0 (1.49) in six starts for the Double-A Carolina Mudcats.

The Marlins are using Willis as a reliever in the World Series because they like having a hard-throwing left-hander to combat the Yankees' lefty sluggers.

Loria enjoying the moment: Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is enjoying the ride, having assembled a World Series team in his second season in South Florida.

Every postseason crowd has exceeded 60,000, drawing encouragement that the fan base in South Florida can grow.

Asked by reporters Tuesday what the Marlins need to ensure the long-term stability of the franchise, Loria said: "Something has to be done about the venue."

It's no mystery the Marlins eventually are eying a ballpark of their own. However, Loria repeats now is not the time to discuss stadium.

"We're not talking about it," he said.

Loria, however, notes the unpredictability of the weather detracts from fans attending games.

During the season, it often rains in the late afternoons, but clears by game time. Only one game was rained out in 2003.

"Really, what the problem is is the unpredictability of the weather," Loria said.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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